The Islands of Greece

The seas of Greece are sprinkled with over two thousand islands and islets.

The Greek islands have been a popular tourist destination for a long time, and each island of Greece with its unique topography, history, and culture attract thousands of visitors from around the world every summer.

Tourists flock to the Greek islands every year to enjoy a few days of beautiful weather, unique architecture, and the character of Greek hospitality. With so many islands to choose from, one is bound to find their favorite vacation spot, and while many preffer to island hop, others return to the same island year after year.

The gamut of character is incredibly wide. There are islands that have been forgotten by time that allow visitors to feel as if they live in a different era, and there are islands that offer cosmopolitan luxuries for every contemporary taste. There are quiet island spots where one can be lost in solitude, and also there are islands where one can be absorbed in the crowds.

Better yet, several islands offer everything in one destination. Islands like Rhodes and Crete are popular because they offer spectacular topography, unique hospitality, beautiful beaches, exciting tourist resorts, fascinating history, unique culture, quiet villages, and party-till-you drop towns.

Given the beautiful weather and the amount of sunshine that bathes the Greek islands in the summer, they have become the favorite destination of millions of Europeans and who choose the Greek islands to spend their annual vacation. Needless to say, several of the most popular islands of Greece are overrun by tourists in the summer, but depending on one’s taste, being among so many people who are there just to have fun together is not a bad place to be.

Alongside the most touristy islands of Greece are the quiet holiday spots with sleepy villages, picturesque promenades, endless sunny days, and crystal cool waters.
The major industry these days for most of the islands is tourism, but the remnants of the yesteryear activities of fishing, diving, commerce, and small-scale agriculture are everywhere. Greek islanders have a strong sense of tradition, and despite the considerable development of tourist infrastructure, they retain the unique cultural character of their individual island.

The unique topography, the long history of invasions, and the long tradition of commerce imprint each island with unique characteristics. Once you experience one Greek island, you will want to see them all. Searching for the perfect island is half the fun and might entice you to Greece annually for life.

GREECE ISLAND GROUPINGS

Greece is surrounded by three seas: the Ionian Sea to the west, the Aegean sea to the East, and the Sea of Crete to the south. They are all northern extensions of the Mediterranean sea that touches the south of the Peloponnese and Crete.

Accordingly, the islands of Greece are divided into Ionian and Aegean Islands and they in turn are separated into smaller administrative groupings or prefectures.

The Ionian Sea

The islands of the Ionian Sea all belong to the prefecture of Eptanisa. Eptanisa means “seven islands” and the grouping is comprised of

Corfu
Paxi and Antipaxi
Lefkada
Kefalonia
Ithaki
Zakynthos (Zante)
Kythira and Antikythira

The Aegean Sea

The islands of the Aegean Sea are divided into several administrative regions:

Saronic Gulf Islands (Islands of the Saronic Gulf and the vicinity)

Salamina
Aegina
Poros
Hydra
Spetses

Sporades (Islands of the northwest Aegean Sea)

Skiathos
Skopelos
Alonnisos

Evia and Skyros,
despite their proximity to the Sporades, these two islands administratively belong to Sterea Ellada

Souther Aegean Islands that include

Cyclades

Andros
Tinos
Syros
Mykonos
Delos
Paros and Antiparos
Naxos
Amorgos
Ios
Santorini (Thera)
Anafi
Sikinos
Folegandros
Milos
Kimolos
Sifnos
Serifos
Kythnos
Kea

Little Cyclades

Iraklia
Shinousa
Koufonisia
Donousa

Dodekanese

Rhodes
Halki
Karpathos
Kassos
Kastellorizo (Megisti)
Symi
Tilos
Nisyros
Kos
Astypalea
Kalymnos
Leros
Patmos
Lipsi
Arki
Agathonisi

North-Easter Aegean Islands

Ikaria
Fournoi
Samos
Chios
Inousses
Psara
Lesvos
Agios Efstratios
Samothraki
Thassos

Despite their position in the northeastern Aegean, Thassos and Samothraki islands belong administratively to the Easter Macedonia & Thrace prefecture.

Crete

VISITING THE GREEK ISLANDS

By Sea

To serve the multitude of islands, Greece has developed the most extensive network of ferries in Europe. In the last ten years the fleet has been modernized and expanded with new ferries that sail between the islands with speed and safety. One major accident in the island of Paros in the late 90s was the starting point for this modernization of the fleet, and maritime regulations that have become stricter to ensure the safety of the passengers. The newer ferries, besides speed and safety have added considerable comfort to their offerings.

The ports of Piraeus and Rafina are the busiest hubs of ferry activity. Between them they connect every major and minor island of the Aegean with every conceivable kind of boat. The islands closest to Athens can be reached within a few hours from these two ports, while islands further away require an overnight ferry ride.

By Air

The largest, and most popular Greek islands have airports that connect them to Athens and Thessaloniki by air. Most flights to the islands leave from Athens airport, and in high season they are connected directly with major European cities via charters that land with some regularity.

Smaller islands have smaller airports and see flights more infrequently, but several development programs have subsidized air travel between smaller Greek cities and Islands. For example, there is air travel between the city of Sitia in Crete and Alexandroupoli in eastern Thrace.